Family Stories: True or False

Family Stories: True or False

It’s the family stories that often draws me in… sometimes you can only read so much of pedigrees and census counts. The family stories passed down through generations build the character of the family, but sometimes those stories are like the end of the “telephone game.” Remember playing that in school… one person whispers a few lines in someone’s ear and it’s whispered around in a circle to return back to the originator. It’s completely transformed from what you originally said!

My mother has been my biggest source of “family stories” and at times I’ve questioned a few, such as…

When I first began tracing my family lines, it was Mama’s maiden line of McKinley who I heard the most stories on. She often told me over and over… how Aunt Lena (McKinley) Van Dusen traced the family line and discovered that three brothers came over from Scotland/Ireland; one went North, one went mid-West and one went South. And guess which one we originated from… naturally the one who went South. While it sounded like an awesome story, it was like grasping at straws and I wondered exactly how much Aunt Lena even researched. While she was a very smart woman… if she had researched, it seems like I would have seen information and documents at some point in my life. If only I had been interested in family research on those weekend visits to her home in Atlanta, I would have known the truth. FALSE

And the tale of the three McKinley brothers also always turned to… did you know that Aunt Lena also said that we are related to President William McKinley?  If that had turned out to be true… well, it sure would have made my “McKinley” research a little easier! And if you’re wondering… YES, I researched President McKinley’s line and I could not connect him in Ohio to my line in Mecklenburg, North Carolina. While I don’t give a definite “NO”… as of now… new information turns up every day! Who knows, maybe I am descended from the McKinley brother who went South! There are possibilities that my Robert McKinley, who was the first of my direct line in Mecklenburg, had brothers…  didn’t everyone back then have brothers, and as I haven’t found his as of yet… well there is hope. Those records to prove such brothers might just appear one day… if not for me, maybe telling these tales will keep the possibility alive for future researchers.

My McKinley lines began in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina… with uncovering our lines there beginning with a Robert (1710/20 – 1775) and Elizabeth (Freeman: 1717-1783) McKinley in the area by at least early 1740’s. They are buried in Steele Creek Cemetery, along with my line of William (1743-1815) and Margaret (unk:1740-1806) McKinley. Their son, William McKinley (1779-1854) married to Sarah Beaty (1778-1860) is my line coming into Putnam County, Georgia. My McKinley line continues in Georgia, while my brick wall remains in Mecklenburg County, N.C; it has remained bricked up for many researchers on this surname.

Another story my mother has insisted on from the very beginning is her mother’s “Askew” line… and she still insists, and I know better than to argue with Mama!

My grandmother, Ola Askew McKinley was always said to have had Indian bloodlines… even having features that many remarked as “high cheekbones”, “dark hair” and prominent features. Mama talked about how her mother was really blood-related, rather than just through marriage to her stepmother-in-law, Nancy Josephine (1882-1978 “Minnie”) Askew… mostly known as Miss Bay. It took me a few years to somewhat discover that it was actually true! (No one has “yet” to explain why she was always referred only as “Miss Bay.”)

It was the discovery of another “McKinley” researcher, who shared an Askew pedigree chart found in a drawer of “loose papers” at the Georgia Archives, that helped to further the truth. I’ve always wondered, why papers are listed as “loose” paper… why not file them? This pedigree chart could easily have been identified and listed? It definitely was a “big” find for my line as my grandmother’s father, Samuel Askew, along with his parents was also on that chart.

As I studied the pedigree charts, darkening the family lines so the families were more identifiable… there was Miss Bay, and further up the ladder, it showed how she and my grandmother, Ola Askew McKinley connected. I finally found a family tale to be TRUE!  

Family of John Askew of Goochland County, Virginia

Askew pedigree chart_0002 edited in paint FIXAskew pedigree chart_0003 edited in paint[5227]FIXThe Red line depicts my Grandmamma, Ola Askew McKinley, to William Askew & (1) Mary Gerald. The Blue line depicts the line of Nancy J. Askew (Miss Bay), my cousin Lyn’s line to William Askew & (2) Ann Reid. Two wives – Two lines – Two connected cousins! 

My grandmother Ola was actually the 1st cousin, once removed of Miss Bay… who was also my grandfather, Edgar T. McKinley’s, stepmother…. such a twisted relationship! Besides being Grandmamma’s 1st cousin, once removed, she was also her step mother-in-law. My mother had always said, she thought there was a connection, but never exactly what the connection really was.

Another tale passed by my mother was… when visiting her step-grandmother and grandpa on Sunday afternoons, she, along with Aunt Aretta (daughter of Miss Bay and grandpa Edgar “Lawson” McKinley) and granddaughter, Margret McKinley (daughter of Earle & Grace McKinley), would sit in the parlor and look through the shoebox of old photographs with the stereoscope; my grandfather was a step-brother to Earle McKinley. Mama often talked about how much fun they had with that shoebox of pictures and the stereoscope…. whether they were family or not! It was the first time she had ever seen a viewer like that or those type of photographs.


A stereoscope is a device for viewing a pair of separate images, depicting left-eye and right-eye views of the same scene, and view as a single three-dimensional image.  Stereo cards enjoyed much popularity from the 1850s to the 1930s as a home entertainment medium. The stereoscope, or stereo viewer as some called them, was first invented and patented in 1838 by Sir Charles Wheatstone, but it was the later version, created by Oliver Wendell Holmes, that seemed to be the most popular of the two… why I’m not really sure. The viewer worked by the left and right eye viewing the same scene as a single three-dimensional image and was the first home entertainment; popular from the 1850’s through the late 1930’s. As my mother was born in 1930, the viewer was still entertaining younger children well into the 1940’s.

In trying to piece this story together of who was in those photographs and tintypes, my cousin, Lyn (McKinley) Smallwood discovered this tintype her mother had… not even realizing it was even a tintype until later noticing the frayed paper frame. Lynn also remembered her mother talking about spending time at her grandmother’s with the cousins and my mother…. and being curious about the photographs in the shoebox.

I can see why my mother lays claim to Indian heritage from looking at this photograph of Cicily Evans Askew below, but Cicily was Miss Bay’s grandmother or great-grandmother… no relation to our Askew direct line. But… Mama still insists today that we have Indian ancestry in our lines… even though mine and her DNA say differently… but who’s going to argue with my mother… Not Me!

Cicily Evans Askew FIX

This was the only tin-type Lyn’s mother remembered, that had been somewhat identified. No names were written on the backs of any, and even today most have not been identified and are slowly fading away. It was told that this tin-type was either Miss Bay’s grandmother or great-grandmother; while the woman in the tin-type has an Indian appearance… she is not in my Askew descendant line which my mother always laid claim to. Another family tale proved False for my line, but Cicily Evans Askew does fall in my cousin Lyn’s ancestry… so it’s a True for her line.

In turning to the tales on my Bryan side…. not too many to trace, as I never had the chance to talk to my father about such stories. While I have heard that William Jennings Bryan was a relation to my Bryans, I never had luck in pairing him with my Bryan lines… I’ve had no success in documenting my Bryan lines out of Georgia! False!

Another Bryan tale, not coming from my immediate Bryan lines but through the research of Thelma Nelson who began researching our Bryan lines during the 1940’s. She had contact with many lines, and maybe the “tales” were fresher then and hadn’t become “gossip tales” as some have through the years. It was said by many older generations to her that Berrian C. Bryan (1823-1923) and his daughters spoke of their Aunt Rebecca Bryan. That Rebecca Bryan, sister of B. C. Bryan’s father, James Bryan, married Ransom Cain… so there was actually an Aunt Rebecca; were they referring to her? It was also spoken that this Aunt Rebecca connected to the Boone’s… and doesn’t everyone want to connect back to Daniel Boone? The BOONE family genealogy is very well-documented, and I’ve never been able to connect my Bryan line to them or to the also well-known Morgan Bryan.

Another mention of Aunt Rebecca was that she was “the” Rebecca Ann Bryan (1739-1813) who married the pioneer Daniel Boone. Could she have been a sister of our earliest John Bryan married to a Nancy (unk). Rebecca Bryan Boone was born near Winchester, VA., and the daughter of Joseph Bryan, Sr., but her mother is not clearly known… it may either be Hester Hampton or Alice (Aylee) Linville. But again, it’s just a tale, as no Bryan researcher has been able to lay claim to this Boone relationship… it’s just the tale that was told through the daughters of Berrian C. Bryan. I have not been able to track my Bryan line out of Lumpkin/Habersham/Franklin counties of Georgia… we all know they came into Georgia from somewhere, and many who ended up in Georgia, had traveled from Virginia to the Carolina’s. Maybe one day, that “one” record I need to prove this … might show!

We are well documented from Berrian C. Bryan to James Bryan to John Bryan… then the Brickwall stands firm! There are some holes unfilled in Morgan Bryan’s later lines…. so somewhere, there could be a link! But have I found it yet, along with the many other Bryan researchers… NO!

So, “listen” and “take the time” to research those family tales… as even if only one weighs out as truth in the end…. better one than naught!


For more Family Stories, click Here

© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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5 Responses to Family Stories: True or False

  1. Pingback: Friday finds: Week 36 – 2017 | Norwegian Genealogy and then some

  2. I really enjoyed reading your tale this week. Family stories can be tricky and funny, ant they definitely add a little spice to our research.

    Liked by 1 person

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